An Examination of the Nature and Experience of Community Collaboration in Extension Education for At-Risk Populations in Virginia
Board, Barbara A
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For several decades, a growing realization has evolved that a single entity often cannot address complex issues. Collaboration has been touted as an effective approach to addressing such issues and is generally defined as multiple parties jointly identifying problems, developing a shared vision for addressing those problems, and sharing resources and responsibilities for a determined solution. In spite of the growing literature regarding collaboration, the predominant focus has been on advocacy, leaving a void in the literature concerning the processes and behaviors involved in establishing community collaboration. In essence, the importance of collaboration is widely recognized; how to collaborate is not as noted. Therefore, it is essential to examine the experience of community collaboration. The purpose of this study was to investigate a collaborative community experience in the context of extension education for children, youth, and families at risk in four localities in Virginia. The following research questions were addressed: a) What has been the nature and experience of collaboration for Extension Leadership councils (ELCs) involved with children, youth, and families at risk (CYFAR) projects; b) What has contributed to successful collaboration in Extension education with the CYFAR projects; and c) What have been the challenges to collaboration for the CYFAR projects? The qualitative case study design utilized in-depth face-to-face interviews with seventeen community representatives in the selected localities involved in the experience. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcriptions were analyzed to determine themes, patterns, and common ways of thinking. Findings, which revealed that ELCs were primarily involved in situation analysis, illuminated the following perceived contributions to successful collaboration: having a process for involvement, addressing a need, commitment of those involved, leadership, and paid staff. Challenges to collaboration were identified as lack of time to commit, lack of understanding of collaboration, and pre-existing ways of thinking and acting. The results have implications for Cooperative Extension understanding how ELC involvement can occur in programming and the collaborative nature of their educational process with the community. The findings will also contribute to human service providersâ understanding of contributions and challenges to collaboration and to the emerging body of knowledge on collaboration.
- Doctoral Dissertations